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Nightmare Client- Just a vent really, but always open to dialogue!

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  • Nightmare Client- Just a vent really, but always open to dialogue!

    After designing for years, I finally bit the bullet and started a small niche magazine in my city. It's actually been going pretty great, but I've got a new nightmare client. In the past, if a client wasn't worth my effort, and I knew it was going to be a tough road, I usually chose to decline the project. However, now that this is a magazine and my sales team is great and selling year contracts- eeps. Im in it for the long haul.

    This is my first foray into working with a sales team ( mine ). Having them act as a go-between is something I'm having to get used to. so- my sales lady makes the sale, and has them email any ad copy, design inspiration etc. based on their conversation. I appreciate this step, as I am currently super busy with other editorial issues.

    So, yesterday I receive from them- 72 dpi .jpg adwork that is horrid. Like- MS Publisher horrid.

    I knew this client would be difficult as soon as my sales rep left. The daughter in law is a "designer" and she created the logo etc. When my sales rep started to critique an ad they'd placed elsewhere, sparks flew. Oops.. daughter in law created it- so feelings were hurt and now she's on the defensive. Great.

    My magazine is small- 8.5 x 5.5 and they have a 3/4 page ad. They sent me TONS of information for the article, and against my better judgement ( at the behest of my sales lady trying to smooth ruffled feathers ) I create two ads. One is minimalistic, still following their puke-ish color scheme, but at least it's tolerable. The second one, I try to fit tons and tons of information, into the ad for them. They hated BOTH ads.

    I've been a designer for years- nobody can hurt my feelings any more. I know what I know, and I've been successful, and if a client doesn't like an ad- which isn't often, I listen intently for valid points, if there are any- I take those into account and I chuck the rest. When they start feeding their family with their design skill wages, and acquire a lot of happy customers... I'll be happy to take their advice. Till then. SHH. For me it's not about vanity or ego. I don't have time for that.

    So- I've always worked with clients directly, and without sounding pompous, I make them happy in two revisions or less. I did implement a policy that any revisions after the second one will be billed at $XX per hour. But I've only ever had to use it once.

    This new client is already stating that they will require more than two revisions. The insertion order has been signed. The check has been cashed. Maybe it WAS pompous of me to think I could please them like my other clients- I don't know. * Note to self: Put revision policy ON insertion order, as well as proof sheet.

    In response to their somewhat heated email stating their dislike for the ads (( saying it doesn't look like their other ones )) I didn't get emotional, or dragged into their "designers" pissing contest... I didn't apologize- because I did nothing wrong. I told them I had a history of pleasing my clients and I knew I could make a great ad for them- if they wanted to send me the elements in the correct format, and the ad copy exactly as they wanted ,keeping in mind brevity. I also pointed them toward ads like Nordstrom- Mall of America- Jc Penneys etc.. to show them that less is more.

    Who knows where it will go from here. It's a fine balance between wearing kid-gloves and telling a client where they can store their paint program graphics.

    Because I *am* a new magazine, and the community is taking notice- I don't want to peeve anyone, but sheesh. Work with me here, folks!

    Ok thanks.. this is all the stuff I wanted to post on Facebook but can't.

    Last edited by KitchWitch; 10-28-2015, 09:43 AM. Reason: No pricing discussion

  • #2
    Hi Yvette! Welcome to the GDF forum.

    Here are links to the forum rules and some useful information that we try to give all new forum members.With the official welcome out of the way, I've had some magazine experience myself, but never from the point of view of the owner. I have had clients like that, though.

    The only clients worse than the ones with no taste are the ones with no taste and who feel as through their taste and judgment are better than your own. Well, I guess the worst clients are the ones who don't pay, but out of the paying ones, I absolutely hate dealing with the ones like you described. There's no way to please them because your judgment on what's good and bad is irrelevant, and all you can do is throw darts in the dark hoping you'll hit the dartboard with something they like.


    • Yvette Marie
      Yvette Marie commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for the welcome. It does help, to know I'm not alone, and others deal with this on a regular basis. Every job has it's pros and cons. I get to blast my music, stroke the cat and work at my own pace in my own home... to balance that out, I get the occasional "designer" who knows better. Meh- I still choose this route! Thank you.

  • #3
    I'll begin this by stating that I have never worked in the situation you are describing. However, it sounds like a sucky one. Personally, I would be tempted to add a line at the bottom of that client's ads stating that the ads were designed by the client. Gives them a pat on the back for being a crappy designer and shows that this is not your work. There are probably a thousand reasons that is not a good idea (like it might encourage other clients to "design" their own ads and insist on them), but that's what I'd want to do.
    Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.


    • Yvette Marie
      Yvette Marie commented
      Editing a comment
      I laughed out loud at the admission that there are probably a thousand reasons this is not a good idea. I feel like I should put "This ad proudly created by: **** *** " I just feel like I'm too old to argue. When I started this magazine, I had grand "visions" about how the ads would look. I even offer free ad design, to encourage them to hand the reigns over to me.. however, I'm so busy with everything else that now- If they create it themselves, and I find it mildly tolerable.. I'll allow it.

      Just like in dating- I've lowered my standards. Doh.

      Thanks for chiming in.

  • #4
    Maybe you need a printer's attitude.
    Close eyes, push button.


    • kemingMatters
      kemingMatters commented
      Editing a comment
      ^This, I work with a couple different publications and client supplied ad material can often not meet the specs they've been given. I usually try to work with them to get them to provide their material to spec. However if that's not possible and they are as rigid as you are describing, I request all the components of their ad and replicate what they originally supplied modifying it only so that it is to spec. I'll try to fit the elements into a grid (if their layout will permit it), fix some minor typography issues, clean up and colour correct their photos and send them a proof. The only time I create new ads for publication clients is if their sales rep asks me to, and when that happens I'm put in direct contact with the advertising client.

      There's always a time crunch with publications and efficiency needs to be priority, and you really have to remove as many obstacles as possible, sometimes that's your professional opinion.

    • Yvette Marie
      Yvette Marie commented
      Editing a comment
      Am I allowed to squint and groan while I push it?

    • kemingMatters
      kemingMatters commented
      Editing a comment
      To yourself and maybe any colleagues, just don't groan too hard and definitely don't let the client hear it.

  • #5
    I haven't been on here in a few years, but I got a poke from a member to come back and see this one, so here I am...tho it will likely be a short visit lol.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of Magazines!! I've been building mags for the last 7 years, and the company I'm currently employed at puts out 6 separate titles per year - Some monthly, some quarterly (we've recently cut back from 10). It's definitely an interesting industry to be in, especially for this reason!!

    My advice to you, grin and bear it. Realistically, you shouldn't be building ads, your focus should be on building a magazine. Clients should be responsible for submitting print ready files to you (typically PDF's). Encourage them to seek out an agency or freelancer. About 98% of the ads we receive are from agencies. Now, every now and then, you'll encounter a client who can't afford to have someone else build their ad, and then it's on you. Be sure to tell them that you're not going to spend hours on their ad, as there are more important things that require your attention (actually, your reps should be telling them this). When we do it for clients, we give them 1 or 2 options to choose from. If they don't like it, we try again. Still a miss, we tell them to find someone else that can dedicate the time to them. We also only offer 3 proofs. After that, they're cut off (typically...more on this in a bit). For difficult clients like this, your best bet is to build 1 ad for them, and build another one that is exactly what they asked for, whether you like it or not (remember, they're the one's paying for the for them, not for you). Generally, seeing them side by side will make them see how bad theirs is and what potential there is for a nice one. If they still say no, we want to go with our layout, get them to sign off and call it done. Don't waste time on them.

    Now, every now and then (and I just went through this) the sales rep drops the ball and doesn't tell them about the limited number of proofs. We just dealt with a client who had no idea what they wanted, and we ended up giving them 4 full page layouts and 3 half before they made their decision (which was to convert a half page into a full page...whole other nightmare). Now, we were able to do this because we have a team of 3 of us (2 designers, 1 Art Director). The AD made the first couple and none of them worked for the client. The other designer made a couple and none worked. I presented 1 full and 2 half, and that's when they chose the half to be made into full (and then use the other 2 for later issues). We very promptly told the client and the rep that this will never happen again! Nip it in the bud! But it only went this far because they had absolutely nothing for ideas to start from.

    Trust me, don't make it a habit to be building all the ads, and the'll wind up putting in more hours than you'll pay yourself for.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Bladez; 10-28-2015, 01:54 PM.
    Art is always and everywhere the secret confession, and at the same time the immortal movement of its time.
    | Karl Marx |

    A desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy.
    | Guy Fawkes |

    | flickr |


    • kemingMatters
      kemingMatters commented
      Editing a comment
      Brushing the dust off for a good ole magazine rant/advice, I like it. Good to see you.

    • Yvette Marie
      Yvette Marie commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Bladez! I appreciate the affirmation that I'm on the right track. I came to my revision policy after I had a client demand I do his logo a particular way that was pretty time consuming, only to say

      " Ha ha, Yeah- You're right... that DOES look really bad. Oh well, I just wanted to see what it looked like." I was so offended he had no respect for my time, that I immediately set forth to make sure it didn't ever happen again. And it hasn't.

      Well, till now. But I will be adding the revision clause to my insertion order for sure. My insertion order does state " ...artwork that is considered inferior may be rejected. Free ad design pertains to the receipt of image-ready files." But I didn't spell it out enough.

      I am trying to maintain my compassion for small businesses and I understand that, at times, they really ARE on a tight budget, and I DO want to help- but seriously.. ain't nobody got time for this.

      I hear you about not designing the ads myself. Currently I'm bi-monthly, and just starting, so I'm wearing many hats, but as it grows, I will have to learn to relinquish some control and delegate.

      My altruistic nature can't wait for the day I can hire on a young design student- tell them to buckle up- put on a helmet, and show them all I've learned. Till then, I'll keep adding to my "Repertoire of Doh!" about how to better handle things.

      I appreciate your input, very much and hope you stick around!


    • Bladez
      Bladez commented
      Editing a comment
      It's weird being back here....especially because things have changed quite a bit...and I see everything is working (thus far).

      A key thing to keep in mind when you do get roped into designing an ad for a client is How much does the ad bring in vs. how much is the design value?

      So, for example, if an ad is costing the client $100 (just for an easy number), but you spend 6 hours designing it for free, but your design time is worth $20/hr (for arguments sake). Then this ad ended up COSTING YOU $20 to be in your own magazine. Being in the red isn't worth it just to fill out your magazine a little bit. We typically don't spend more than an hour building an ad for a client.

  • #6
    Great advice, Bladez!!!
    This post is brought to you by the letter E and the number 9. Those are the buttons I push to get a Twix out of the candy machine.
    "I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process."


    • Yvette Marie
      Yvette Marie commented
      Editing a comment
      "This post is brought to you by the letter E and the number 9. Those are the buttons I push to get a Twix out of the candy machine."
      I snorted. This is awesome. The tagline, not the snort.

  • #7
    Thank you guys so much- I've read the replies, and I'm responding to each of you- I appreciate your time.

    If you'd like to read my reply to the client- here you go. I was aiming for "solidarity with my sales team" and a helpful but no nonsense approach. Policies are policies, right? What can you do? ( of course I wrote the policy, and could change it... but, that aint happening! ) I also have a tendency to sound too apologetic and was aiming to maintain control, with an upbeat Merry Mary Sunshine attitude to hide my frustration .

    I am appreciating the lessons I'm learning... I keep telling myself that.. lessons mean growth, and growth is good.
    Hi *sales staff*- thanks for forwarding me the information for *business name*. I'd like to address us all as a group, so if you could also forward this to them, so we are all on the same page- I'd sure appreciate it.

    I'm so excited to be working with all of you. I hand-picked * business name*, way before I even started this magazine- because I couldn't wait to get the word out about the great service you offer to *our city*. So- I want to understand you better, and to have you understand me as well.

    This is my first experience working with a sales team- I have always contacted the client directly, so this is new to me. I welcome the different views and I know that together, we can create an ad that will drive traffic to your website, and to your mall.

    I understand your concern with the print on the bottom of the proof sheet. I want to assure you- that I only want what is best for my clients, and this is by no means fine print meant to mislead anyone. Please be assured that with clear communication and understanding on both parts, we will create the perfect ad for *business name*.

    My policy on charging after my second revision, is based on years of experience- because it streamlines the process for both of us. I have only had to enact it once, because I've always pleased my clients in two revisions. I'm proud of that fact! I want nothing more than to please you too.

    In college, we learned a lot about advertising, and keeping the reader engaged. This meant, using an image that caught their attention, and quickly at that. If you google things like Nordstrom's Ad, or JC Penney Ad, or even a Mall of America ad, you will see that they have very little text. Often they have an image that is only vaguely related!

    I know that you are introducing your business to the city, and that it's imperative for them to know how MUCH you have to offer. That is why I chose to put the "With over 100 vendors" at the top. This lets them know that you are NO SMALL store- and that you have a LOT to offer them.

    My goal was to drive them to your website- where you detail at length everything your mall carries. To do this in an ad, with a lot of text, typically turns the reader away. They will not read the entire ad. The goal is to capture their attention, and draw them in, in a way that makes them want more. You mentioned your eye was drawn to the purple bow- I'm glad it worked!

    You also mentioned that your tagline was missing- I should have clarified that I was waiting on your logo, to include it alongside it, on the gift tag. To me, Logo and Tagline belong together.

    The samples that I was sent were in 72 dpi. This is great for web copy but not suitable for print. If you would like particular elements used in your ad, such as the butterfly, please be sure to send me the high resolution copies in .pdf or .eps format. I will also need to know the names of your fonts used.

    The main thing I want you to know is this- EVERYTHING I do, is from a standpoint of helping you. There is no ego involved, nor is there vanity. I have such a love for entrepreneurs, and I want to use my talent to make your business and your life better. You succeed, we succeed, we all win! I promise- that is my biggest goal and sweetest reward.

    I seldom include two copies of ads- but *sales lady * asked that I make a special concession for you guys, and I did. I spent a long time designing them, but I understand that there was mis-communication, and you feel I missed the mark.

    Let's do this...

    Let's scrap the two ads and start over.

    Please send me the exact copy you want on your ad, keeping in mind brevity, and including your most important points. I will cut and paste it into your ad.

    If you would like to send a high quality photograph of the inside of the store, I can use that as well.

    With your high resolution elements and direct content- I am sure we can come up with a winner, no third revision needed.

    If you have any questions- please let me know. Your concerns were heard, and taken to heart... together, we got this.

    Take Two- Ready, Set GO!


    • KitchWitch
      KitchWitch commented
      Editing a comment
      Too long; didn't read.

    • kemingMatters
      kemingMatters commented
      Editing a comment
      Dammit! I always put the semicolon in the wrong place

    • Bladez
      Bladez commented
      Editing a comment
      Well, I see nothing has changed in that regard, since my departure, Kem.

  • #8
    I'll also second what Bladez wrote.

    When I was designing magazines, we rarely put together ads for advertisers. Ads are, of course, the lifeblood of most any periodical, so there are instances where you do more for a regular advertiser or a good prospect. Making a habit of it, though, is a losing proposition unless you're staffed up for it, charge them ad agency rates for the design (in addition to the ad space) and place some strict sideboards on revisions.

    Creating ads for free easily turns into a no-win situation because so many of the small-time advertisers who take advantage of this free service fail to appreciate the freebie they're getting, don't understand the time involved and are usually unsophisticated when it comes to anything having to do with advertising, design, marketing or working with professionals in those fields.

    When I worked at a daily newspaper, the advertising department did design free ads for advertisers when requested, but ads in the newspaper were usually pretty basic, cost a small fortune and there were strict limits on what the advertiser could expect.

    When it comes right down to it, selling space for an ad means just that -- the space is theirs to use as they please (within reason). If they insist on ugly and ineffective, well, it's ultimately their choice. Like they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.


    • Yvette Marie
      Yvette Marie commented
      Editing a comment
      You guys are a wealth of information. Thank you! I can see that I am going to have to re-think how this whole thing is going to work. I've often devalued my work, because as a self employed, single mom, I understand being on a budget... but I need to value my work so others will too. I've at least learned that much.

      This is only my second issue, and I am keeping my eyes wide open for ways to streamline it, and not lose my soul or sanity in the process.

      You are right on about the not appreciating the freebie they're getting. I guess I can't expect them to know- and I don't want to set up a losing situation for either of us.

      Great points. Thank you very much.

  • #9
    UPDATE- I am now trying to put out fires and maintain control. And not say anything I will regret. This is a learning experience. And I'm not out to win this pissing contest, and there's no contest if I refuse to join in. Im not about trying to educate them any more. I just want to get the ad done and not get sucked into the drama and baiting.

    So- my reply to a very long email from her was succinct and hopefully not snarky. There's a fine balance between letting them know you really appreciate their business, and letting them know they aren't your only client, and that you can't be abused. If anyone has the formula for this, Please let me know.

    I wont bore you with all the details- but here is my reply to a long email where she baited me repeatedly. She informed me that she was the designer (( she put it in italics, actually )) and she has never had an issue before with sending compressed, 72 dpi jpgs for ads.

    Please feel free to critique my reply- I tried not to sound snarky, but I don't want to fan the flame anymore either, I just want to be done.
    I wasn't sure who I was dealing with- thank you for the info. I don't even know your name. I understand your frustration. I too, haven't experienced this level of confusion- but together, we can get it done.

    I'm all about good and direct communication. If the details I sent weren't clear- I apologize. Let's make this as direct as it can be. If you can draw out how you would like your ad- I will prepare it as you would like.

    Please feel free to hand draw it, if you prefer- a sketch, and take a photo, if you need to. I will build it from there, and do the best I can with what I have.

    Please be aware that I am changing my directive- I feel as if we have stepped on toes by trying to help, and now I realize that this is not a service that you feel you need. I won't complicate things by trying to explain or sharing my knowledge, and I will create your ad, as you prefer.

    So, let's back up. You didn't mention sending me the photoshop files, so it is my understanding that you would like me to piece together the jpgs that you sent.

    If you can sketch out what you'd like, and send me the wordage for your ad- I will do my best.


    • B
      B commented
      Editing a comment
      Do you have a rate card, Yvette? The rate card should list all minimum ad spec requirements, and it should be required reading for anyone submitting an ad (or submitting materials for you to build the ad). Things like image resolution, bleeds, PDFs vs whatever, CMYK vs RGB, etc., should definitely be mentioned in that rate card.

      I'd also suggest not writing personal-sounding emails to business associates expressing personal feelings, regrets, frustrations, etc. There might be occasion for this, but normally not. Instead, I'd just suggest keeping it very business-like while referring to the rate card specs. For example, "The files sent were 72ppi, but our magazine production requires 300ppi files as mentioned in our rate card at Please send 300ppi files so we can finish your ad and meet the deadline for inclusion in our next issue. Thank you."

      If they argue, protest, complain or require a whole lot more hand holding than this, don't indulge them. If they're unable to comply with the minimum rate card requirement with a reasonable amount of help and explanation from you, they're more hassle than they're worth.

    • kemingMatters
      kemingMatters commented
      Editing a comment
      Good call on the rate card B, I just assumed it was part and parcel to the sales information and insertion order. Even when clients have that information I find that I'm frequently reiterating specs to them.

    • PrintDriver
      PrintDriver commented
      Editing a comment
      It's increasingly common for clients never to read the specs.

  • #10
    OH those newspaper/magazine ads. My crusade to clean them up was well fought, but barely won. They can do us in if we let them, ha! It's always the client with a "designer" in the family too. Been there done that. Came away thinking "who cares about the ads?"


    • #11
      Thank you guys very much! I agree wholeheartedly about my need to just stick to the facts. I have a bad habit of saying too much, and learned my lesson this time! Yes, they were provided with all the specs they needed at the time of sale. The only info I didn't include was my revision policy. You can bet I've remedied THAT! I appreciate your time and advice, y'all. Thank you!






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